Rules of Use

Mind and Language 38 (2):566-583 (2023)
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In the middle of the 20th century, it was a common Wittgenstein-inspired idea in philosophy that for a linguistic expression to have a meaning is for it to be governed by a rule of use. In other words, it was widely believed that meanings are to be identified with use-conditions. However, as things stand, this idea is widely taken to be vague and mysterious, inconsistent with “truth-conditional semantics”, and subject to the Frege-Geach problem. In this paper I reinvigorate the ideas that meaningfulness is a matter of being governed by rules of use and that meanings are best thought of in terms of use-conditions. I will do this by sketching the Rule-Governance view of the nature of linguistic meaningfulness, showing that the view isn’t by itself subject to the two problems, and explain why the idea has had a lasting appeal to philosophers from Strawson to Kaplan and why we should find it continually attractive.

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Indrek Reiland
University of Vienna


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